The sun is barely up on Wednesday mornings when music lovers begin staking out the best patch of grass for Seal Beach’s free summer concerts Wednesday nights.
But music-lovers aren’t the only ones having turf wars.
Nestled at the base of the pier at Eisenhower Park, the summer concerts series, hosted by the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce, has raised the ire of some Main Street merchants who resent the participation of outside vendors. This week, a handful of merchants lobbied city officials to place a condition on the event that only Main Street or Seal Beach businesses can participate. At Monday’s City Council meeting, chamber officials countered that the summer concerts draw business into Old Town, adding that the businesses protesting the outside vendors are the same that opt not to get involved with chamber events such as the concerts or the annual car show.
“The events do cost money, and it has to come from somewhere,” said Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce President Erik Dreyer-Goldman.
The concerts, which run each Wednesday until the end of this month, draw thousands of people throughout the summer. They are free to the public, and the chamber pays for it by selling sponsorships, advertising and vendor space.
Of the 12-vendors involved in the summer concerts, only two are from outside the chamber, said Dreyer-Goldman. Vendors include a funnel cake booth, a kettle corn booth, and a booth that does decorative feather hair extensions.
“The chamber is the largest event-producing entity in the city,” said Dreyer-Goldman.
“Our events are directly responsible for generating significant revenue for local businesses.”
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Dreyer-Goldman invited Seal Beach merchants to join the chamber in order to have say over how the chamber events are run. He noted that each of the merchants who criticized the summer concerts have chosen not to join the chamber and take part in chamber events.
The suggestion didn’t sit well with Lisa Woodruff, co-owner of on Main Street.
“I don’t think that just because I am not a member, my voice should not be heard. I am not a second-class citizen,” she said. “I just say ‘no’ to having outside merchants on Main Street.”
Woodruff also suggested that the chamber events should do more draw customers in to the businesses on Main Street rather than have them hang out by the pier for the concerts.
“We need to promote events that are going to get people to walk up and down Main Street,’ she added.
Provoked by the feather extension booth operated at the concert by a business from outside the city, several Main Street stylists spoke at the council meeting in opposition to the outside vendors at the concerts.
“We don’t need people from other cities coming to our town and taking our money,” one stylist told the council.
Diana Brunjes, chamber member and manager of on Main Street, said the cost of a booth is worthwhile for Bay Hardware even though they aren’t selling anything at the concerts. At the Bay Hardware booth, they help children build birdhouses. It may not generate instant business, but it helps build relationships with customers and the community, said Brunjes.
Just being there for the community is good for everyone, she said.
While the council didn’t vote on the matter, Mayor Mike Levitt told chamber officials that he would like to the concerts open to Seal Beach vendors only.
TELL US IN THE COMMENTS
Do you think the summer concerts are helpful or harmful to local businesses? What would you do differently, if anything? And which summer concert band has been your favorite so far?
Correction, in an earlier version of this article, the number of concert vendors from outside the chamber was mistaken for the number of vendors outside the city.